03 November 2012


31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 12:28-34 (Dt 6:2-6 / Ps 18 / Heb 7:23-28)

I grew up counting days.  I counted the days before my birthday, before school starts and then before it ends, before Christmas and New Year, before my loved ones' birthday, before any occasion I considered important.  Prior to my diaconal and presbyteral ordinations in December 1994 and June 1995, respectively, I counted years, months, weeks, days, and hours, too.  Each day closer to any awaited date was a step closer to a joyful, even if simple, celebration.  The closer the date got, the more excited I was.  Even now, in my mid-forties and with a childlike heart, my excitement still grows more and more as I get nearer to any important occasion, any special gift, or any person I wait for.

I wonder if the scribe whom Jesus referred to in the Gospel today as “not far from the kingdom of God” got excited at all upon hearing thus.  How did he react to such a high compliment from the Lord Himself?  It is important to me to know how this scribe responded to the divine accolade given him by Jesus because, for me there can be nothing more exciting than to know that I am already very near heaven, perhaps even just a step away.

If you were that scribe, how would you react?  Wouldn’t you be jumping up and down for joy?  You would be so excited, wouldn’t you be?  If you were overjoyed and very excited, so what would you do?  Now that you know which of the commandments is the greatest and, if you were indeed that scribe, even made the excellent commentary that to love God and neighbor “is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices”, what would be your next step?  That “next step” is very crucial because it may well be the step needed for you to take that you may enter the Kingdom of God.  For no matter how much you are well versed with the commandments of God and how brilliantly you expound on them, unless you are in the Kingdom of God, you are still outside it.

Did the scribe in the Gospel today make it to the Kingdom?  The Gospel is silent about it.  The evangelist already decided that such a detail is no more important to us.  What is truly essential is that we ourselves are not only a step closer to the Kingdom but are actually in it.  We ought to strive be there, to be counted among God’s chosen ones.

But knowing how to get to the Kingdom of God will never get us there.  While knowing the way is indeed inevitable for us to arrive at the Kingdom, we ourselves must tread the path that we know leads to it.  Knowing the way and walking through it are indeed inseparable but they are clearly not the same.  So, do we know the way?  But do we walk the way?

As we are in the Year of Faith, it will do us well to consider that many of us know the Faith, but still many do not live according to it.  Many know the way but do not walk it.  What we know is the content of Faith; it is the act of Faith where many of us falter.

We learned from catechism that the First Commandment orders us not to have strange gods other than God Himself, and yet many of us subscribe to superstitious beliefs, fortune tellers, and syncretism.  We also know the Sixth Commandment – “You shall not commit adultery” – and the Ninth – “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” – but many Catholics are living in with someone else’s spouse, not a few of them are even glorified by Mass media.  We, Catholics, believe that marriage is one of the Seven Sacraments, but there are many Catholic couples who settle with civil wedding rather than the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, reasoning that they are running on a low budget when, in fact, church-wedding can be more simple but still grace-filled.  We know as well that “You shall not steal” is the Seventh Commandment, but how many Catholics cheat from the classroom through the marketplace to the government offices?  And the Eight in the Decalogue commands us not to bear false witness against others, but we lie and we rumormonger and we testify untruthfully even under oath.

We accept the content of Faith but do we practice the act of Faith?  Many of us, Catholics, are restless until our babies are baptized and yet many, as well, take the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony very lightly.  Many Catholics love the Holy Eucharist and receive It so frequently, but only a few go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, declaring, even with haughtiness, that they rather confess directly to God than through priests who, like the rest of humanity, are sinners, too.  How many profess to be saradong Katoliko (devout Catholics) but are not obedient to the pope or are disrespectful of the hierarchy, even sometimes ridiculing them in public.  (I was so disgusted one evening, when I saw on national T.V. a Maryknoller nun badmouthing our bishops over the issue of the Reproductive Health Bill.)

Indeed, as the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, declaring the Year of Faith, said, “We can no longer presume faith nowadays”.  For people may know but may not live according to what they know.  Knowing is not necessarily believing, and believing is not always obeying, but faith demands the three: knowing, believing, and obeying.  This is the crisis of our times.  This is the crisis of Faith.  Unless resolved, our faith may indeed bring us not far from the Kingdom of God, but still not fully in it.

The past week, celebrating All Saints Day and commemorating all the faithful departed, we have been reflecting on holiness as our origin and destiny, as our blueprint and vocation, as God’s gift as much as our task.  Our thoughts today lead us to consider that holiness is not only the perfection of charity as demanded by God’s commandments but is also wholeness of life.  Holiness is wholeness.  A holy person is a person whose life is integrated, not dichotomized.  A holy person is one who knows the content of Faith and does the act of Faith.  A holy person knows, believes, and obeys.  A holy person is not far from the Kingdom of God precisely because he or she is in it.

Are we not excited that we are not far from the Kingdom of God because we know the Faith?  If we are, then let us practice the Faith so that we may actually be part of that Kingdom where holy, happy, and loving people live forever.

Did the scribe in the Gospel today make it to the Kingdom of God?  We don’t know, but we hope he did.  It matters little to us now if he did or did not make it to the Kingdom though.  What we should be more concerned about is our entering that Kingdom, for though we may be not far from it, unless we are in it, we are still outside of it.


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